Wiconsin teachers join CTU rally after union rights victory

September 15, 2012

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Several buses from Milwaukee, Madison and Racine made their way from Wisconsin early Saturday to join the Chicago Teachers Union rally in Union Park on Chicago's West Side.

Despite the long trip, the teachers were in high spirits; many on the buses shared their excitement using the hashtag #wisc2ctu. "got a bus to Chicago to support @CTULocal1. So many ppl signed up we had to get another bus on the fly; found us a school bus! #wisc2ctu" tweeted @itsghastlycrew.

Adding to their enthusiasm was the news that broke Friday, when a Wisconsin judge declared that the state law to prohibit collective bargaining for public employees pushed forward by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was unconstitional on both state and federal grounds. 

The ruling animated some of the teachers on their trip to Chicago, but others weren't quite sure what to feel.

"I think we're still trying to process what it all means for us," said Jenny Sagrillo, a teacher in the Milwaukee pubic school system for 14 years. "I'm not quite sure what it's going to do for us yet. We're hopeful, but hesitant."

"It's energizing but we know that it's only going to be through ongoing organizing that it actually is secure," said Bob Peterson, the president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association and a teacher with the Milwaukee public schools for 30 years.

Peterson said they'd been planning this trip since the strike began.

"The courts can easily be turned around. And so we're here to help in solidarity with the Chicago teachers; they are carrying on the legacy of what we started 18 months ago in Wisconsin."

Others found the day "absolutely powerful" regardless of the ruling, like Bonnie Brusky, a staff member with MTEA and whose children attend Milwaukee public schools. 

"...when we got off the buses, the crowds parted and it was a sea of Wisconsin that came through and a great welcoming," said Brusky. "[It was] absolutely amazing. But the reason we're here is that we realize that this is a nation-wide movement to destroy public schools and if people begin to see that our voices are more important than the dollars going into these politics, I think we've got a fight in this."

Brusky said she sees what's happening in Chicago as just one part of a larger issue with public education going forward.

"I think we make sure everybody's got red shirts in their closet for when we need them to pull it out at any opportunity. I think we've seen our numbers growing and actually, a lot of people don't even realize that the teachers in Victoria, Australia also went on strike. So this is more than what's happening in our country; people are fighting for public ed across the world where it exists."